Over on Instagram, I’ve been featuring non-toy items that enhance play therapy spaces. Of course, I love my toys. I love them. A lot. I definitely think I could use more shelves to hold more sandtray miniatures. And I would love, love, love a more extensive kitchen play area. As usual, space and finances pace my would-be-growing collection of toys. There are some things, however, that I find invaluable in a play therapy space. And guess what? They aren’t even toys. And they don’t take up that much space. In fact, in many cases, I pulled them from my home or got them for very little money at a consignment shop or store.

So, what are some of these items that enhance play therapy space? 

Color Tape

I bought a set of masking tapes in eight different colors. I think I bought them initially to add to the art supply area. As the mother of a child with severe dysgraphia, I know that not all children are comfortable drawing because they are SO used to having their artwork criticized by peers and even teachers. Therefore, I strive to have art supplies that can be used successfully without fine motor skills.

How has it been used? Even though I bought the tape with art in mind, children have used it in several creative ways. On more than one occasion it has been used to make casts for dolls and stuffed animals in the play therapy space. Children often get to choose the color for their cast. It is natural for them to want to give dolls and stuffed animals colorful casts similar to what they had or what they see their peers with. Another creative use of the tape has been in creating games on the floor. Currently, in my play therapy space, there are about four games demarketed on the floor in various tape colors. Children who don’t know why it is there often ignore it. If they are curious they will ask and I let them know somebody created a game and we decided to leave it there. The tape has also been used metaphorically to represent the holding and containing of numerous items taped together.

Twin Sheet

I have a twin sheet with curvy waves on it. I brought it into the playroom with the intention of having items for fort-building. It has been used for forts multiple times, as well as to help create storefronts, vet offices, and stores.

How else has it been used? It’s been used to create a cozy “nest,” a dress, a walkway, and even an ocean (remember the wave print?). Most recently, however, it has been used as a net for various physical games. Kids have played volleyball and tennis (with balloons).

Tennis Rackets

If you have any children who play tennis, these are really easy to pick up because they will outgrow their smaller rackets. Also, they get bent (at least my child has bent a few). Old tennis rackets are relatively cheap at thrift stores, too. I initially brought in the tennis rackets when I worked with adults. Let’s just say I have had a lot of training in gestalt work and expressive therapies. It can be pretty cathartic to hit a sofa with a tennis racket. Naturally, I kept the tennis rackets when I started working with children. And, yes, the tennis rackets are used against the Bag of Air bop bag I have in the play space. (If you were curious about my take on aggressive play, there you have it. It’s healthy.)

How else have the tennis rackets been used? I’ve already alluded to it above. The tennis rackets have been used as  … tennis rackets. No, I don’t keep tennis balls in the room. Yikes. Instead, I have small beach balls and a small foam ball, and we also have balloons for blowing up. Children can often safely hit these items as hard as they want.

Mirror

I brought a full-lenght mirror in the space so children can see themselves dressed up. Yes, dressing up is so much fun. Add the ability to see themselves as they try on clothes representing different aspects of themselves, and you offer a way for children to see and integrate those aspects into their self-concept

How else has the mirror been used to enhance the play therapy space? Cheating. I didn’t expect this one, but it’s been great for children who want to cheat at the game Headbands. Is cheating bad? No. It gives me a lot of rich information about what might be going on within the child. It’s also been used as a target. One child took a dry-erase marker (see below) and created a target. They then shot at the target with a toy gun that shoots suction cups. And, of course, children will glance at the mirror throughout a session to see themselves. Maybe they want to delight in themselves as they sing and dance. Maybe they are curious about how they look when I reflect on their body language and facial expressions. Maybe they look in the mirror and feel safe enough to say, “I don’t like how I look.” Then, I can reflect on that to them in a loving and accepting way.

Other Non-Toy Items to Enhance Play Therapy Spaces

  • Funnels and sifters enhance the sensory and regulatory experiences of the sand tray.
  • Dry/Erase marks are excellent for drawing maps and “clues” on the floor (and targets on mirrors; see above).
  • Plastic gloves can invite children who don’t like the messy feel of art supplies or sand to continue playing.
  • Small paper plates are great for artwork because I often don’t clean the paint palette between sessions, and more and more clients are delving into art.
  • Small paper cups are often used to play “coffee shop.”
  • Shopping bags are used to play “store.”

And there is so much more!

I invite you to look around your space and think, “Hmmm … what non-toy items might enhance this play therapy space?

Share your ideas below!

 

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